With advancements in technology in the past decade, we now often have the tools to oversee many tasks we could not have managed on our own years ago. We can watch videos tutorials online to assist in fixing innumerable problems we encounter. It would be easy to make the assumption that hearing aids are moving in a similar, automated direction. However, this could not be further from the truth!
Hearing aids from decades ago were analog devices that required specified manual manipulation by an audiologist to achieve the best sound quality. Although issues previously encountered with analog hearing aids have essentially fallen by the wayside, other intricacies have arisen with the mere complexities of hearing aid circuitry and programming software capabilities. Current hearing aids are fully digital instruments, and with this improvement, we have gained exponentially more possibilities with the hearing aid programming. On a rudimentary level, changes can be made to the amount of amplification at numerous pitches and for varying levels of sound input levels from the environment for each ear. Beyond that, audiologists have the capability to adjust the adaptation of the microphones on the hearing instruments to restrict or expand the area of sound accepted by the hearing aids in addition to the types of sound to reject in various environments. Furthermore, the audiologist can manually change the power of receivers on some devices and the manner in which sound is routed into the patient's ear. These are just a few examples of the countless options audiologists have to adjust to make hearing aids fit the needs of each of their patients with varying degrees of hearing loss and lifestyle demands.
Audiologists traditionally work with several hearing aid manufacturers to best address the needs of their patients. Nearly 48 million Americans have hearing loss, and each person's type and degree of loss, daily environments, listening needs, and processing abilities are vastly different. Audiologists need to have the ability to customize the devices for each individual, instead of being tied to a proprietary retailer. Therefore, mastery of each manufacturer's instruments and software is crucial for a skilled audiologist. However, with technology progressing at its current rate, audiologists must participate in trainings on new software platforms and device advances on a routine basis.
Major hearing aid manufacturers carry several lines of hearing instruments, varying in power, connectivity options, and styles. Years of research goes in to the production of new hearing aid computer chips and design, which are released approximately every year. With the consistent release of more sophisticated instruments and updated programming software, hearing healthcare specialists must be dedicated to staying abreast of all technology changes for multiple companies. Additionally, with advancements in BlueTooth® technology, the capacity within the devices themselves as well as their ability to pair to other accessories opens up an entirely new frontier of potential options for an audiologist to employ to meet the listening needs of their patients.
Given the intricate nature of these complicated miniature ear-level computers and accessories, appropriate manipulation of the software programming requires the expert skills of an audiologist. Audiologists formally study hearing aid technologies from multiple manufacturers and other amplification technologies while in graduate school. They are the only professionals licensed to perform diagnostic hearing evaluations given their foundational knowledge of diseases of the ear, appropriate identification techniques, proper counseling for aural rehabilitation, tinnitus management strategies, and inner ear balance disorders. Working with an audiologist can make all the difference when it comes to improving your connection to the world around you through better hearing. When comparing the level of expertise required in selecting, fitting, and programming hearing aids, it should be evident that an audiologist is the most qualified specialist.
Moreover, respected hearing aid manufacturers typically employ only doctoral-level audiologists (Ph.D. or Au.D.) for their research and development, because these specialists have the strongest background in digital signal processing, psychoacoustics, patient needs, and the demanding real-world implications of their developments. Dispensers simply do not have the appropriate background in suitable research strategies, implications of sound processing by auditory system and hearing devices, and acoustic concerns to adequately serve them in the field of research of new hearing aids.
Clinically, it requires a skilled audiologist, extensively trained and educated in order for digital hearing aids to operate optimally and implement an appropriate aural rehabilitation plan. There is simply more than clicking a few options in programming software to make these intricate devices achieve the level of success our patients' lives demand.
Audiologists traditionally work with several hearing aid manufacturers to best address the needs of their patients. Nearly 48 million Americans have hearing loss, and each person's type and degree of loss, daily environments, listening needs, and processing abilities are vastly different. Audiologists need to have the ability to customize the devices for each individual, instead of being tied to a proprietary retailer.
For more information about Johnson Audiology, to schedule a consultation, call 423-710-1432 or visit johnsonaudiology.com.